Other reads: MELT (Alice Cooper)

When I write for other publications, I like to cross link it here. The August issue of MELT Magazine is now available and features the cover story I did on Alice Cooper.

Check it out on the MELT site here (only good through the month of August) or read it following the jump.

The music world may be full of shock rockers these days (hello Slipknot and the others) but there really is only one true original, Mr.Alice Cooper. Okay, so along the way he may have demystified some of the legend by appearing on the Muppet Show (look it up on YouTube, Cooper performs classics like “Welcome to My Nightmare” and “School’s Out” alongside everybody’s favorite fuzzy creatures) and lending his talents to commercials for companies ranging from Staples to Bridgestone Tires, but the singer continues to have a sick and twisted mind as evidenced on his 25th (!!!) studio album, Along Came a Spider.

Playing a character is something that the man born Vincent Furnier has been doing since the mid-60s (coincidentally, Cooper turned 60 earlier this year) and on Along Came a Spider, Cooper adds another character to his arsenal, that of a serial killer who imagines himself as a spider.

The concept album opens with a spoken word prologue explaining how the killer’s diary was discovered and how it contained a wealth of detailed information about all the horrible crimes that had been committed.

Seems as if the killer, who calls himself Spider, is killing women, and putting them in a silk cocoon after removing a leg from each in order to construct his own spider. But when he goes for the final kill – the eighth victim – he falls in love with the woman he had planned to murder and complications ensue which eventually lead to Spider’s downfall and imprisonment.

With just a minute left – in the album’s prologue (“I Am the Spider”) – Cooper throws longtime fans a bone when he says, “We’ve been in this cell for 28 years, Steven …”. Steven, for those not familiar with Cooper’s early work, is the main character in the singer’s first solo album (the previous releases had been credited to the Alice Cooper Band), 1975’s Welcome to My Nightmare.

Saying the songs have a vintage Alice Cooper feel may come off as misleading considering the length of the artist’s career and the many different chapters that make up Cooper’s legacy. While the rawness of some of Cooper’s early material is felt on tracks like “I’m Hungry”, this album definitely falls more in line with the material from the third phase of his career which was marked by the release of 1986’s Constrictor. The guitars are heavier than the material from the ’70s, the lyrics darker, and the vocals as venomous as ever.

As good as Cooper is as the frontman, there’s no denying that his ever-changing backing band is integral to the overall sound and once again Cooper’s surrounded himself with talent. Besides the guest appearances by Slash (“Vengeance is Mine”) and Ozzy Osbourne (“Wake the Dead”), Along Came a Spider features the talents of guitarists Kerri Kelli (Slash’s Snakepit, Saints of the Underground, Pretty Boy Floyd), Jason Hook (Vince Neil Band, Mandy Moore, Hilary Duff), bassist Chuck Garric (L.A. Guns, Dio) and Kiss drummer Eric Singer. Kelli and Garic were among the additional songwriters Cooper worked with when putting together the music for this album and the entire recording band will join Cooper on tour this summer.

Whether or not Along Came a Spider becomes an essential in Cooper’s catalog remains to be seen, but the shock rocker deserves a great deal of credit for continuing to shock and horrify listeners when it would be easy enough to go out and play just the greatest hits (“Only Women Bleed,” “I’m Eighteen,” “Under My Wheels,” “Elected,” “Poison,” etc.) that have been piling up over the last 40 years. And no matter how many shock rockers you’ve seen live, Cooper will always … ALWAYS … find a way to one up his competition and peers when he hits the stage and brings his show to life. Just be ready as anything goes.

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